Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Inheritance book 3 announcement

Random House has announced that book 3 of Christopher Paolini's Inheritance cycle will be called Brisingr! It will be released on September 20, 2008. The cover features a picture of the gold dragon Glaedr.

From the press release:

“BRISINGR is one of the first words I thought of for this title, and it’s always felt right to me,” said Christopher Paolini. “As the first ancient-language word that Eragon learns, it has held particular significance for his legacy as a Dragon Rider. In this new book, it will be revealed to be even more meaningful than even Eragon could have known.”

Read the press release here.

Brisingr is the sequel to the popular books Eragon and Eldest. Fans have speculated that the title of the third book would begin with an 'E' also, like the first two books. Empire was a popular guess for the book 3 title. I think the actual title will catch a lot of people by surprise.

The Random House AuthorTracker email provides more clues to the title and cover: "Both elements of the cover, the gold dragon Glaedr and the title, touch on Eragon’s inheritance. With his painting, John Jude Palencar has captured the dignity and wisdom of Glaedr, and Random House has again designed an awesome book cover."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Book Review: Dragon's Keep

Dragon's Keep
by Janet Lee Carey

When King Arthur's younger sister Evaine was exiled to Wilde Island, Merlin made a prophecy to her:

The signs all point to the twenty-first queen of Wilde Island.... Three things the stars say of this queen. She shall redeem the name Pendragon. End war with the wave of her hand. And restore the glory of Wilde Island.

...And yet I see darkly in the stars...a beast"

Many years later, Evaine's descendent Rosalind grows up knowing that she is to be the twenty-first queen of Wilde Island and destined to fulfill the prophecy. But there's one problem: Rosalind was born with a birth defect. The ring finger on her left hand is a dragon's claw instead of a finger, a sure mark of the devil. Rosalind has had to spend her entire life gloved, for fear that someone will see the mark.

Rosalind's mother, Queen Gweneth, is determined that she will find a way to heal her of her mark. She believes that once healed, Rosalind will marry the English Prince Henry, currently in exile in France, and that the two of them will become king and queen of England. To this end, Queen Gweneth subjects Rosalind to the ministrations of healer after healer. None of the healers are allowed to know what the problem is, of course, so they have to work without knowing what they are trying to cure. Some of the cures are unpleasant, and none of them works.

A dragon's mark is especially bad, because Wilde Island is beset by a dragon, who attacks and kills the inhabitants. Dragons are not looked on with favor on Wilde Island. When the dragon abducts Rosalind, she learns a lot more about dragons than she ever wanted to know, and her destiny turns out to be very different than she expected.

Dragon's Keep is a beautiful book, but a dark one. Rosalind's life is such a horror, and that the pain of it is caused by the mother who thinks she is doing the best for her daughter is unspeakable. When Rosalind is abducted by the dragon, her life is still a horror, but in a very different way. It raises the question of just who is the beast in Merlin's prophecy: the dragon or the mother? Queen Gweneth reminds me of some parents who push their children too much in areas such as sports or acting, thinking that they are helping their child and not realizing that they're carrying it too far. (As a stage parent myself, I can see how easy it is to get carried away and think that you are doing what's best for your child).

Dragon's Keep also shows how different sides in a war can perceive the same things very differently. Dragon Slippers, which I reviewed yesterday, deals with the same theme. It was interesting reading these two books so close together. They are, in many ways, very different books: where Dragon Slippers is humorous and lighthearted, although with some darker moments, Dragon's Keep is dark and intense.

The dragons in the two books are very different as well; the dragons in Dragon Slippers are so very human whereas the dragons in Dragon's Keep are clearly a different species with an alien (to us) way of thinking. And yet both books deal with the same theme of reconciling the "us vs. them" mentality in a war. In Dragon Slippers, the author takes the approach of making the dragons so likable that the reader can easily bridge the gap between "us" and "them." The dragons in Dragon's Keep, however, seem harsh to us, and yet as time goes on, we begin, as does Rosalind, to understand how they think, and we find ourselves drawn to them. And so the gap is bridged, and bridged in a way that has a stronger psychological impact.

I hope that my description hasn't led you to believe that these weighty themes drag down the story, because they don't. I doubt I would have noticed all the above quite so strongly if I hadn't read both books practically back-to-back during my Cybils reading. Dragon's Keep is a strong story, exciting, and enjoyable to read. The plot twists and revelations hold your interest and pull the story along. I highly recommend it for anyone with an interest in dragons, or who just likes interesting, thought-provoking fantasies.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Book Review: Dragon Slippers

Dragon Slippers
by Jessica Day George

Dragon Slippers is a 2007 Cybils nominee.

Creel and her brother Hagen live with their aunt and uncle, who took them in when their parents died. But the family is poor, and Creel, with no prospects for a good marriage, is a liability. So Creel's aunt sets her mind on a plan: Creel will offer herself to the dragon, and when the dragon takes her prisoner, a brave knight will rescue her and marry her, taking the entire family to live in his castle. Creel knows it's a stupid plan, but she has no choice but to go along with it.

Right from the start, things don't go according to plan. The dragon doesn't want to take her prisoner. He really doesn't want to battle a knight. And he doesn't hoard gold; he hoards shoes. Creel makes a deal with him: she'll leave, taking the need to battle the knight with her, in exchange for a pair of shoes. As Creel heads off to seek her fortune in the city, she has no idea just how much trouble those shoes are going to cause...

Dragon Slippers is a must-read book for dragon fans. It's a delightful book with a fairy-tale feel, but with more depth and better developed characters than your typical fairy tale. The story is told in the first person, and Creel's voice is a fascinating blend of naiveté and worldliness. She has a certain appealing innocence about her, and yet she displays quite a bit of grit and determination.

But the best thing about this book is the dragons. Author Jessica Day George has imbued her dragons with distinctive personalities. And each dragon hoards something different: one collects shoes, another one tapestries and others...well, you'll just have to read it and see. I don't want to give too much away. From the noble Shardas to the anxiety-ridden Feniul, you'll love them all. The book is at its best when the dragons are in the picture.

There's more to this book than dragons, though. There's a budding romance with a prince and even a ball, but Creel is no passive Cinderella. She's determined to make her own way in the world, and the ball is one for people who want to start their own business to help them find patrons to invest money to get them started. There's also a war, and heroes, and a message about how leaders sometimes distort the truth for their own ends.

For all Creel's good points, though, at times she seems a bit dim. You want to slap her for the things that she doesn't see. And the book drags a little in places. Overall, though, it's quite an enjoyable story that will appeal to dragon lovers and those who love modern fairy-tale type stories.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Battle of Pelennor Fields - in candy

Thanks to Shaken & Stirred, I discovered this amazing sculpture of The Battle of Pelennor Fields from The Return of the King, made entirely out of candy! My favorite part is Grond, the battering ram, made from red licorice ropes. Pure awesomeness!

Click here to see it

Edited to add:

There's a Kid safe edition for those who don't like the bad language

New Cybils SFF Reviews

The nominating committee deliberations are over and the shortlists have been posted, but some of the nominating committee members have continued to post new reviews of the nominees. The following books were reviewed by members of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Nominating Committee over the last week:

View the complete list of 2007 Fantasy and Science Fiction Cybils nominees

View the shortlist of 2007 Cybils Fantasy and Science Fiction finalists

Cybils update

I'm a little late posting this, but the rest of the Cybils shortlists have been posted! View all the finalists in:

There's even a Printer-friendly shortlist courtesy of Jen Robinson

Now, the shortlists go to the judging committees, who have the difficult task of choosing just one winner for each category (two winners in Fantasy/Science Fiction and Graphic Novels, due to the age split). The judging committee for Fantasy and Science Fiction consists of these fantastic bloggers, who are already busy reading the finalists:

Michele Fry (Scholar's Blog)
Gwenda Bond (Shaken & Stirred)
Chris Rettstatt (Chris Rettstatt's blog)
Janelle Bitikofer (Writermorphosis)
Libby (Lessons from a Tortoise)

Many, many thanks to my outstanding nominating committee:

Kim Baccellia
Sheila Ruth (Wands and Worlds)
Leila Roy (Bookshelves of Doom)
Sarah Stevenson (Reading YA: Readers' Rants)
Tasha Sacker (Kids Lit)
Tanita Davis (TadMack) (Finding Wonderland: The Writing YA Weblog)

I really enjoyed working with all of you. We had some fantastic discussions! One of the best parts about working on a Cybils committee is the opportunity to talk books with other book nerds.

I also want to express much gratitude to our fearless leaders, Anne Boles Levy and Kelly Herold, for all their hard work and organizational skills. Without them, there would be no Cybils.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Book Review: Northlander

Tales of the Borderlands: Book One
by Meg Burden

Northlander is a 2007 Cybils finalist.

Ellin's father Rowan is a healer, the best in the Southlands. When the Northland king becomes gravely ill, his advisors send to the Southlands for Rowan to come and help. But Northland laws and Northland prejudice prevent Rowan from touching the king, so he's forced to do what he can by proxy: brewing herbs and giving advice. When a crisis happens and Rowan is away, Ellin ignores the laws and heals the king herself, an act that will have far-reaching consequences. For although she saved the king, she did break the laws, an act that can't be forgiven no matter what the result.

In healing the king, Ellin awakened her own latent healing powers. She also discovered that she has other powers as well, powers which she instinctively knows that she must keep secret, even from her own father. But Ellin discovers that she's not the only one who has these powers, and even in the cold Northlands Ellin finds friends. But prejudice, ignorance, and fear exist everywhere, and friends may not be enough to save Ellin.

There's a lot to like about Northlander. Rich world-building and interesting characters are only the start. It's a moving, layered fantasy with many unexpected plot twists. Ellin is a wonderful character; the present tense gives her first-person narration an immediacy that allows us to see her develop as she grows in understanding. But more than that, author Meg Burden pulls off a difficult feat: she gives the five sons of the king, including the twins, distinctive personalities. It would be easy to fall back on cliches in creating a group of siblings like that - the brainy one, the leader, etc - but Burden gave each character depth and ongoing development.

Northlander is a book that continues to surprise the reader. At first it seems a standard, cliched us vs. them: the evil Northlanders are prejudiced against the good Southlanders. But it turns out to be so much more than that. I can't say too much without giving away some of the surprises, but this is a book painted in a rich palette of many shades of gray, not just black and white. It's a book that shows how prejudice and hatred can exist anywhere there is ignorance and fear, and goodness can be found in the most unexpected of places.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Book Review: Skin Hunger

Skin Hunger
A Resurrection of Magic: Book One
by Kathleen Duey

Skin Hunger is a 2007 Cybils finalist.

Sadima has a special ability: she can understand animals. But Sadima doesn't dare tell her father or her older brother. When Sadima was born, her mother had a difficult birth. A charlatan magician, hired to help her, let her die instead, and stole the family's possessions. Sadima's father, left angry and bitter, hates all magicians and would never understand her abilities. Her brother just doesn't believe her.

Sadima lives a lonely life, isolated from the community and with only her brother for companionship. Until one day, she meets a man who not only understands her abilities but tells her that she is not alone. This man, Franklin, is a servant to a magician, Somiss, who is trying to restore magic to the world. As soon as Sadima is able, she travels to the city to live with Franklin and Somiss and help them with their work. But Somiss is very different than the gentle Franklin, and her life and work there turns out differently than she expected. What will be the price for restoring magic to the world?

In a story that alternates with Sadima's, a young man named Hahp is sent by his father to an academy to study magic. His father doesn't care if he learns magic; he just wants to get rid of Hahp. Hahp learns that there's definitely a steep price for magic, as life in the academy is harsh. The boys are given nothing to eat, and told that if they don't learn to make food by magic, they'll starve. Some may even die. Only one of the new students will become a magician, if any of them do. Will Hahp be the one? Does he even want to?

The two alternating stories seem to have nothing to do with each other, but as the book progresses, the link between them becomes apparent. More than that, each story reveals things about the other story. It's an incredibly compelling book, tightly plotted and well-written. It's dark and edgy; it draws you in and won't let you go.

Its compelling nature, though, creates a kind of a problem: every time it switched between the stories, it frustrated me because I wanted to stay with the story I was on and find out more. And when I turned the last page of the book and saw there was no more, I wanted to throw the book against the wall. If you like your stories wrapped up and self-contained, this isn't the book for you. Not only does it not wrap everything up, but the book ends just as you begin to have a creeping dread that you know where the story is headed.

Still, this is an indication of just how good the book is. If it weren't, it wouldn't be so hard to let it go. Dear God, Ms. Duey, how can you torture us like this? Please don't make us wait long for book 2!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Book Review: Repossessed

by A.M. Jenkins

Repossessed is a 2007 Cybils finalist.

Kiriel just wants to experience a bit of life. As a demon, er, fallen angel, he's usually immersed in the suffering and regrets of those souls who end up in Hell. Can he be blamed if he wants to find out what life is really like? So he borrows the body of a teenage boy named Shaun. It's not like Shaun will need it anyway; Kiriel takes the body seconds before Shaun is about to die, hit by a car.

Kiriel is determined to experience everything he can in Shaun's body before he gets caught and recalled. All the sensations of living are glorious - food, smells, even the feel of a t-shirt. Not surprisingly, sex is high on Kiriel's list of things to experience, but when he sets out to accomplish that goal, he finds out that even that is much more complicated than he imagined.

Kiriel discovers that he wants to make a difference in the world; to leave a mark that will last after he's gone. He finds that helping people is much more satisfying than seeking personal gratification. And he learns that what he really wants is to get a response from the Creator.

Repossessed is a clever, funny book with a lot of teen appeal. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected. Kiriel's voice in this first person novel is distinctive and likable. He's rebellious, questioning, at times even angry, and yet beneath that is a depth and a goodness that belies the demon label. Although he is in many ways different than the teen whose body he inhabits, he is clearly a teenager in the cosmic sense, both rebelling against and seeking attention from the Creator.

This is a book for mature readers: there's a lot of off-color humor and adult situations. Yet it's also a book that's surprisingly spiritual, not in a strictly religious sense, but in its appreciation for all creation and depiction of seeking one's place in the universe.

Gifted and Reluctant Readers Catalog

Bob and Barb Spear, owners of Leavenworth, Kansas independent book store The Book Barn, have created an online catalog of books for gifted and reluctant readers. The new catalog is called GRREAT BOOKS - Gifted Reluctant Readers Exploring Amazing Titles - and features carefully selected books for reluctant readers of all ages, as well as a section featuring books for gifted readers.* Bob and Barb have 28 years of experience as booksellers, and Bob has reviewed over 1200 books at his review site, Heartland Reviews. Bob has a special interest in discovering great books from independent and self-publishers.

Click here for the GRREAT BOOKS catalog

*(Disclaimer: my husband's books The Remin Chronicles are included in the catalog)

Cybils 2007 Finalists!!!

The 2007 Cybils finalists in the first four categories are now live! This is the culmination of two months of work by the dedicated and amazing nominating committee panelists. Now, the shortlists go to the judges, who have the difficult job of choosing just one winner for each category.

See the finalists for:

Congratulations to all the authors, illustrators, and publishers behind the finalists!